Jazz - Then and Now (Chapter 2, page 1 of 15)


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Chapter 2

During the period between 1740 - 1800, a series of religious revival meetings known as the Great Awakening took place in the American colonies. Gilbert Tennent, an evangelical preacher, began this movement in New Jersey. It was soon followed by other religious leaders, George Whitefield, Samuel Davies, Jonathan Edwards, James Davenport and others carried the revival meetings throughout New England.

One main reason for the Great Awakening was to introduce new doctrines that would unify the Congregationalist, Presbyterian and Baptist churches into a single organized denomination. From these revival meetings came the "white spirituals," originating in the white churches in America. "White spirituals" are categorized as a type of folksong, hymn and religious song in a ballad-type setting and camp-meeting sing-a-long. They share the same musical elements, symbols and origin as the Negro spiritual.

However, each religious denomination had its own concept as to what the lyrical expression should convey. For instance, the Baptists believed that lyrics should be personal, abundant and free of doctrinal issues. Other groups considered only the words from the psalms, or, stories from the Bible. After a series of bitter disputes among the leaders and the input from the blacks and whites who attended the meetings, they finally agreed that spirituals should create a feeling of brotherhood and freedom of expression.

Folk hymns were usually sung to a religious text. An example of this was a text written by Evangelist James Davenport in 1742: "Then should my soul with angels feast on joys that always last. Blest be my God, the God of joy who gives me here a taste."

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